Apple has designed a stylus that can capture the surface texture of a painting

Steve Jobs Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSteve Jobs famously hated the idea of a stylus.

Apple has filed a patent for a stylus that can capture the look and feel of a textured surface.

The patent describes a stylus with images sensors that can sense the physical attributes of any surface it passes over. The surface could be sensed through a clear lens in the tip of the stylus and picked up by a camera inside it. That data could then be stored by the stylus for use at a later date, or transferred to a paired tablet or computer for use in a painting application, meaning that an artist or graphic designer could incorporate that surface into a project.

The stylus would let you pick up the detail from a sculpture or painting and transfer it to a computer:

The patent describes a few real-world applications, from computer aided design to 3D mapping.

The stylus could also be used to provide tactile feedback from an image to the same sort of “rumble pack” used in gaming to make your handset vibrate. Then a user might be able to “feel” the texture of clothing for sale on the internet.

Apple doesn’t always create the products it patents, but it does seem fairly committed to the idea of a stylus, one that Steve Jobs famously hated. He first made fun of the idea at a 2007 conference:

“Who wants a stylus?!”Jobs asked while the crowd laughed along. “You have to get ’em, put ’em away, you lose ’em, yuck. Nobody wants a stylus.”

He also told biographer Walter Isaacson, “As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead.”

But Apple has already filed several patents for the device, which could be useful to graphic designers, or those using the iPad for work. Last month it also extended and updated a patent protecting several devices that could be attached to the iPad magnetically. As well as a stylus and a stylus holder, the patent covers a magnetically attached keyboard, camera, card swipe reader, antenna system and data storage device. It was originally filed in February last year.

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